“In 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day.”

Our quick post the other day on a fun image noting that deserts receive more energy from the sun in 6 hours than humankind consumes within a year was quite popular, as was Vote Solar’s witty solar energy spill billboard, so I figure you might also like the image above that the Australian Youth Climate Coalition dropped on the CleanTechnica ‘timeline’ on Facebook. As it notes, in 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day.

It reminds me of this next image, which I am fond of sharing, that shows annual renewable energy potential compared to the total energy potential of finite energy resources:

solar energy

“Comparing finite and renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). Total recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources. Yearly potential is shown for the renewables.” (source: Perez & Perez, 2009a)

In other words, people who say we don’t have space to power the world with renewable energy are off their bloody rocker.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/19tvw)


Elekra One Electric Plane + Solar Panels

Say who? An electric plane called Elektra One is adding solar panels to its bragging rights. And the plane is actually selling for quite a competitive price… if you’re in the market for hobby planes. Here’s more info from Chris over on Gas2:

Elektra One EV Plane Adds Solar Panels, Doubles Range

Electric cars may be struggling to find a home, but EV’s are making remarkable progress in the unlikeliest of places; aviation. Last summer we brought you the story of the Elektra One, an all-electric airplane a range of about 300 miles. Well the brilliant minds behind the Elektra One are back with a new version that sports twice the range of the original.

The brainchild of Solar World and PC-Aero, the Elektra One is made from a high-tech composite material. The entire plane weighs in at just 400 pounds, and has a maximum weight limit of 220 pounds. With a pilot on board, the new version of the Elektra One can travel just over 600 miles on a charge thanks to the addition of wing-mounted solar panels, which provide a trickle charge to the batteries.

This extended range actually makes the Elektra One quite viable as a puddle jumper for private use. Yes, the single-passenger cabin and light payload make it rather impractical as much more than a hobby or toy right now…but give it a few years. At $145,000, the price is still half that of most amateur ”hobby” planes.

The most popular airplane in the world, the Cessna 172, has a flying range of about 600 nautical miles (depending on a wide variety of factors from wind speed to fuel tank size), and if the Elektra One can add a few more seats and a bit more payload capacity…well, have you seen the price of gasoline these days? It only costs more if you’re filling up an airplane. The Elektra One could become the Cessna 172 of electric aviation one day.

Any amateur pilots want to chime in on this electric aviation pioneer? Would you ever take an electric plane into the air?

Source: Gas 2.0 (http://s.tt/19f1m)

QANTAS Looking to Sustainable Aviation Fuel With First Flight

At the time of writing this article, QANTAS flight 1120 is en route from Adelaide to Sydney on a return journey using a new sustainable aviation fuel derived from recycled cooking oil. Prior to launch earlier this morning, QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce announced that QANTAS would be conducting a feasibility study into the potential for an Australian sustainable aviation fuel industry.

The study, expected to start in May of this year and with technical support from Shell and funding from the Australian Government, will explore the conditions needed for the production of aviation biofuel from sustainable sources within Australia, said Joyce.

“Today is a historic occasion in Australian aviation,” Mr Joyce said. “We are delighted to be operating Australia’s first sustainable aviation fuel flights and to be launching a study into the feasibility of producing such fuel in this country.”

“Alternatives to conventional jet fuel are vital to the aviation industry meeting ambitious targets for carbon-neutral growth and emissions reduction.

“Australia has the skills, resources and infrastructure to take a lead in this emerging sector, which the CSIRO has estimated could generate up to 12,000 jobs over the next 20 years. But there are also significant challenges – which is why we need to establish a clear plan.

“Until sustainable aviation fuel is produced commercially at a price competitive with conventional jet fuel, we will not be able to realise its true benefits. This study aims to tell us how that can be achieved in Australia.”

Today’s flights were powered by a 50:50 blend of biofuel and conventional jet fuel, supplied by SkyNRG and certified for use in commercial aviation. The blend’s ‘life cycle’ carbon footprint is around 60 per cent smaller than that of conventional jet fuel.

Source: Qantas

Your Chevrolet Volt Needs A Charge Sustaining Mode: Here’s Why

In a few weeks’ time, Vauxhall/Opel, a European arm of General Motors, will officially start sales of the 2012 Vauxhall/Opel Ampera.

Essentially a Chevrolet Volt in disguise, the Ampera shares most of Volt’s features and, thanks to a lack of On-Star in Europe, loses some of the Volt’s remote functionality.

But the European cousin of the Volt has something the Volt doesn’t, something everyone should covet: a charge-sustaining mode.

Why it exists

When GM engineers were working on designing a european-version of the Volt, some cities within Europe were considering enforcing zero-emissions zones, effectively banning any car within the zone which could not operate in zero-emissions mode on demand.

Often one of the given explanations for why some Hybrids have an electric-only or EV button, the future possibility of zero-emission zones in cities led GM engineers to develop the charge-sustaining mode.

What it does

Offered as an additional driving mode alongside the Standard, Sport and Mountain modes found on a U.S. market Chevrolet Volt, the charge sustaining, or Hold Mode, allows the driver to choose when to use the 10 kilowatt-hours of available battery power to move the car along.

This makes it possible to force the car to use gasoline only while on the freeway, saving its entire battery charge for use in stop-go city traffic.

Essentially, Hold Mode allows the Ampera driver to better control the tailpipe emissions of their car, as well as improve gas mileage when driving on mixed roads.

Europe only, but there’s hope

The absence of Hold Mode in U.S. market Chevrolet Volts, like the missing EV button in 2004-2009 Toyota Priuses, hasn’t escaped the attention of Volt fans in the U.S.

In much the same way as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf have benefited from after-market user ‘hacks’ designed to give drivers features missing or desired on U.S. market cars, we imagine it won’t be long before an enterprising electronics engineer or hardened fan figures out an unofficial way of forcing U.S. market Volts to enter into Hold Mode.

Of course, depending on where you are, carrying out such modifications could potentially cause damage to your car or invalidate warranty, but since both cars are made on the same production line we guess the difference is down to software not hardware.

But GM itself might be working to bring Hold Mode to the U.S. At a recent Volt owners’ breakfast meet at the New York Auto Show, at least one owner petitioned Chevrolet to add the feature on U.S. cars.

Chevrolet officials present assured the owner that the company was considering doing so, but that the process would require discussions with the EPA before it could make Hold Mode available to U.S. customers.

Source: Green Car Reports

CNG vs Gasoline

CNG vs. Gasoline

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a form of natural gas subject to high levels of pressure. It is colorless, tasteless and odorless. CNG is often used in heaters, air conditioning units and running vehicles. In some countries, CNG Experts claim that using CNG on vehicles is way better than gasoline. Enumerated below are the differences between the two.


CNG mainly has two sources: one, it may come from organisms that produce methane as part of their natural metabolic processes and second, from organic materials deep within the earth which are subjected to very high pressure.

Gasoline, however, originates from crude oil which comes from a black liquid pumped out of the earth called petroleum. Crude oil consists mostly of hydrocarbons while natural gas consists of methane.

Environmental Effects:
Due to the more natural form of CNG, it is preferred by many environment conscious consumers over gasoline in running vehicles. CNG reduces emissions of harmful gases like carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide by huge percentages.

Moreover, burning of CNG expels lower amounts of carcinogenic particles into the air. Burning gasoline on the other hand produces large amounts of CO and CO2 which leads to the greenhouse effect, commonly known as global warming.

Cost and Maintenance:
In most cases, CNG costs fifteen to forty percent less than the regular gasoline. However, the cost of CNG-powered vehicles are discovered to be about $3,500 more than the gasoline-powered ones. This is due to the high price of CNG fuel cylinders.

On the good side, since CNG-powered vehicles are increasing in popularity, prices are expected to become lower in the future.

In terms of miles per gallon, a regular gasoline-powered car averages thirty two miles per gallon while a CNG-powered car averages forty three miles per gallon.

Lastly, the car oil in a CNG-powered car does not need to be changed as often as the gasoline-powered counterpart because of the cleaner burning ability of CNG.

Functioning and Performance:
Recent studies show that CNG has a higher octane rating than regular gasoline. Higher octane rating means higher and better engine performance. CNG-powered vehicles can overpower a gasoline-powered vehicle’s acceleration and speed.

Safety Concerns:
CNG is safer to use than gasoline because of its low chance of flammability. Although CNG is flammable, chances are slim since it is lighter than air which means it can scatter very fast. CNG can only be flammable when the concentration of the air is five to fifteen percent natural gas which is not likely to happen in most cases.

Availability and Accessibility:
Both CNG and gasoline are widely available worldwide. The United States of America brings about 25% of the world’s natural gas production while Saudi Arabia has the most production of crude oil and petroleum.

However, while gasoline can only be accessed through authorized refilling stations, CNG can be refilled at the comforts of one’s own home. A machine named “Phill” was invented in California in 2005 by the Fuel Maker Corporation. Phill allows car owners to refuel overnight in their own homes using their household natural gas line.

Source: All about Cng Vehicles.com

Fish thriving around wind farms

The first Danish study into how one of the worlds largest wind farms affects marine life is now completed. It shows that the wind turbines and the fish live quite happily together. Indeed some species of fish have actually increased in number.

As work is just beginning on Denmark’s newest and so far largest offshore wind farm off the island of Anholt, comes some hopefully good news for all fish in the area. A new report from the Danish wind-park Horns Rev 1, one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, shows that offshore wind farms and fish can live together in harmony.

The 80 huge turbines at Horns Rev 1 are located just off Denmark’s westernmost point and will be celebrating their tenth birthday in just over a year’s time. Like other offshore wind farms, it is located in relatively shallow water, no more than 20 meters deep, and thus in an area which is typically teeming with fish.

Even before the park was built, researchers from DTU Aqua, National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark, sailed out to conduct a survey of fish life in the area. Biologists then compared the data gathered at that time with the situation in the area seven years after the wind turbine blades began to turn.

“Our study showed that the turbines have not adversely affected fish life in the area,” says biologist Claus Stenberg from DTU Aqua.

Several new species

Offshore turbines at Horns Rev are sunk deep into the seabed and surrounded by a rim of large piles of stones, which prevents the sea currents eroding deep trenches in the sand around the turbines. The study suggests that these stone structures also act as artificial reefs, providing enhanced conditions for fish, with an abundant supply of food and shelter from the current, and attracts fish which like a rocky sea bottom. As such, the turbines have created habitats for a number of new species in the area.

“Species such as the goldsinny-wrasse, eelpout and lumpfish which like reef environments have established themselves on the new reefs in the area – the closer we came to each turbine foundation, the more species we found,” says Claus Stenberg.

Fish living at the bottom of the sea thriving

The researchers were keen to see how the fish species that live on the large fine-grained sand banks that the mills were constructed on would be affected – species that include, for example, the sand eel, which is one of the most important fish for the Danish fishing industry.

“The study shows that wind farms have not been a threat nor of particular benefit to the sand eel. The sand eel is dependent on the fine sand, in which it buries, to live, and the mills did not affect either the sand grain size on the bottom nor had any impact on the number of sand eels,” the DTU Aqua biologist concludes.

The study is the first to examine the effects of a Danish wind farm on fish life. However, researchers do not expect that the results will necessarily be replicated in the other 11 wind farms located in Danish waters.

“Horns Rev is situated in an extremely tough environment with strong wave action, which means for example that seaweed forests, together with the small fish that live in them, cannot establish themselves. We would therefore expect the positive reef effects to be even greater still in a park located for example in the more sheltered Kattegat,” says the DTU Aqua scientist.

Since the Horns Rev 1 was built, the area has been closed to all fishing activities. As a result, thepark has become a kind of mini protected area, although it has been too small to have had any significantly positive effects on local fish stocks.

“Our studies suggest that the Horns Rev 1 is too small to function as a true marine protected area (MPA), because over their lifecycles the fish utilize a much greater area than just the wind farm. But presumably several parks located close to one another could have a combined positive effect on spawning and the survival of fish fry, as wind farms which are located downstream of each other can act as a kind of dispersion corridor for eggs and larvae,” says Claus Stenberg.

The study of wind farm Horns Rev 1’s effect on fish life was carried out as a joint project between DTU Aqua, Orbicon, DHI and NaturFocus. The project was led by Orbicon with DTU Aqua responsible for the practical and experimental analyses.

Source: Technical University of Denmark

Building Codes: Simple Energy Savings

In energy policy, lawmakers often prefer carrots to sticks because it minimizes the opposition. But mandatory rules, like building energy codes, can save energy and pay back several times over during the useful life of buildings.

The state of Illinois is poised to become a regional leader by adopting the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), an example of small-seeming rules with big impact. For example, 40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. is in buildings, along with about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, adopting the 2012 IECC (as Illinois is doing), with energy efficiency standards 28% stronger than the 2006 code, can make a big dent in carbon emissions.

The financial savings can add up, as well. The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated in 2005 that homeowners in the Midwest spent an average of $1,800 per year on household energy use. Assuming states had already adopted the 2006 IECC for the previous expenditure figure, the implementation of the 2012 code could save families $500 per year.

Builders often fight codes, and the ones in Illinois are no different, claiming the cost of the improvements will add $5,000 to the cost of a new home. But in fact, the increased cost of a home built to the 2012 code in Illinois will increase the home’s cost by $1500 (~$6 a month) but save $33 per month in energy costs.

In other words, improved energy efficiency in building codes saves homeowners from
day 1.

The U.S. Department of Energy supplies maps depicting the current status of state building codes — its residential map is shown below (hold ‘ctrl’ or ‘command’ and click the ‘+’ button to make larger).

Already, 30 states have adopted the 2009 IECC or better, and interestingly, the pattern does not follow traditional red-blue state political divisions.

Of course, a code is only as good as compliance — enforced by municipal government — and the Alliance to Save Energy suggests that it can be spotty. Anyone know of good studies of code compliance?

Source: This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (check out our new website!).